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What does the soccer club FC Bayern Munich have to do with your start up?

The FC Bayern Munich and your StartUp…..

….what they should have in common, or your favourite sports club …. or your favourite sports. Recently, I was allowed to hold a detailed workshop at the StartUpCon in Cologne and my topic was:


On the whole, the presentation was about various sub points I talked about, but today I would like to commit you to the already stated topic. The FC Bayern Munich is a sports club, a club, an association of people, a team. This team is not only the people on the pitch, not only these footballers who you constantly see…. There is much more behind it; manager, physio department, doctors, marketing, sales, managing directors, jurists, scouts and I could go on forever with this list. A whole team manages everything, so that the guys on the pitch can give their best, and exactly these guys are the ones doing everything to win matches.

How does it work? Why is the FCB where it is right now? If I watch a game, I see why they are successful. Let’s start with the game itself, as to that I have a move for you:


The initial situation is 22 players, 2 goalkeepers and 20 outfield players. Those are spread, depending on the tactics of the manager, over the whole pitch. Often, it’s 3-4-3 or a 4-4-3 or 4-3-4… and other formations. So, 3 players are in the defence, 4 are taking care of the midfield and a further 3 are trying to score goals. Jérôme Boateng is a defender at FCB, who usually operates on the right side of the pitch. He’s got the ball and then looks how his teammates are moving, he got the full overview of the opposing team, the teammate, the distances and many other factors. He targets his “arena” like an eagle, deceives his opponents and has already noticed that a real formation has been formed. Only he and his teammates can see this, they are absolutely well-attuned, they are a team! He takes a run up and passes the ball to the left, to David Alaba.

David Alaba is one of the best left-wingers in the world and multiple Austrian Football player of the year. He, as well as Jerome, have been blessed with the talent of perfectly reading a game and he also has a very nice feeling for the ball. He sees that Alcantara Thiago has released himself in the midfield and would be able to pass on his shot and so he does the only right thing: He positions the ball and shoots. The plan works and Thiago runs off with the ball, eyes on the field in front of him. If you think he has a tunnel view now, you are far from it! No, before he received the ball, Thiago had already noticed that Douglas Costa was already in the right place and after 10 meters the ball flies through the air. Endless seconds you might think and a good 40 metres. The ball lands, as controlled by another hand from afar, right in front of Costa’s feet, a dream. The opposing players have realised it and are trying to build up in front of Costa to deny him the direct chance to score.

Costa thinks: Of course, this is the plan, come to me everybody as I am very dangerous in front of the goal and my drive to the goal is like a volcano. Like a cat under the cover of darkness, Robert Lewandowski – together with Thiago – had already seen the pass from David Alaba and he knew that Thiago wouldn’t pass it to him but to Costa instead and therefore he could use this chance to sprint to the opponent’s goal. Robert knows exactly what he wants and he is thinking his vision through to an end, realising it. He is running as quickly as possible and is heading highly energetic towards the goalkeeper and, despite all that, the way he is controlling the ball is extraordinary. Two, three and four steps and there he is, the exceptional striker. He is a warrior and he wants his booty, his goal. The ball is placed perfectly, the wind direction is right, the grass’ wetness is perfect, now it counts, to the point. With full force and yet unequaled precision, he hits the ball. It flies, flat and very close to the ground, towards the goal. The goalkeeper has no chance, that was it. He got his booty aaaannnnddd GOOOOOAAAALLLLL!! The final whistle is blown and the game is over. The Munich’s won the game!

Here several questions arise for me. Let’s start with:

What happened here?
A TEAM which is perfectly coordinated realised what’s possible by quick shifting and analysing the situation, the possibilities and chances. They trusted in themselves and got the most out of it. They had a vision, were determined, and realised and used their chance. They have trust in the skills of each other and they know when they have to put their strength to use. Likewise, they also realise their weaknesses and know when to take a step back.

How did they do it?
First of all, it must be noted that a last minute victory in a deciding match requires a lot of physical and mental power and strength. With weak teams, you can see during the game how frantic it becomes. You see how every single one – step by step – stops believing in a victory. The mental strength of fighting until the very end disappears. For a club and a team like the FC Bayern Munich a game isn’t lost before the final whistle was blown. There are several reasons for this mental strength. First of all, there is that one player who has had this exact attribute for his whole life (Arjen Robben for example) and then there is one player who knows that he wants to win, but doesn’t have this gene. This player will be infected by Arjen Robben, the spark ignites. This is exactly the club’s task, to perfectly balance the individuals in order to form a team for the pitch. Previously, there was a Stefan Effenberg or a Mark van Bommel, they were the instigators, the alpha leaders. Here too, the club had a significant impact as such players had been chosen consciously. If the team had a bad day, those two were there to stop the opponent’s game flow. They were responsible for the team and took the lead. They supported the allegedly “weaker” players (and this on a very high level).

How did this happen?
Something like this is a time consuming process. A team has to grow, slowly but surely. It’s not easy to place the right player in the right position and anyhow, this player has to be found first. With the FCB you’ll quickly notice that they do that with meticulous precision. There are scouts who observe, and watch games around the whole world, and they know the strengths of the respective team members who matter on the pitch and they know the quality of the team. A David Alaba, for example, benefits from Franck Ribery’s play! The success on the pitch stands and falls with the quality of the team. A club’s success relies on the players made available to the manager, how the environment is set up to the players and how you involve the club’s supporters. At the FCB, this came about through hard work in the 2nd division over the course of 1-2 decades, they strengthened and grew, again and again. Exactly this has been done perfectly right by people like Uli Hoeneß, Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

What’s also interesting here is that they not just build a first team. The management starts much earlier, in the youth league or amateur league, in the 2nd team, in the substitute squad …. they work their way throughout the whole club and place the right people everywhere.

What does “team” mean here?
In the case of FC Bayern Munich, team doesn’t only mean the squad (btw – this is the same everywhere!). It starts at the bottom and works its way to the top. It is very important that you realize that every team member is important for the success. You don’t need unimportant people and everyone contributes its part to the total success. The Greenkeeper “only” looks after the lawn, only? The better the lawn, the better you can play on it and the lower the risk of injuries. The bus driver makes sure that all players travel relaxed from A to B and the assistant coach makes sure that the manager’s visions will be perfectly put into action by all players. The ball-boys guarantee that the ball is back in the game quickly so that it can go on and that the game flow is only insignificantly interrupted. The fans’ representative makes the supporters happy and the supporters cheer the team on while they are fighting …… So, every single person makes a contribution.

What are you?
You can’t be everything and this doesn’t even matter, but be aware of it. Everyone has different strengths. If you know yours and you stand up for them, you can develop and enhance them. If you offer them and openly communicate, you can be a real asset in a team – in the right position. Phillip Lahm is one of the best players in the world and certainly one of the best players who has ever played for Bayern. He delivers constant performance and is always available. He scored 12 goals in 333 Bundesliga games and as national player 5 goals in 113 internationals …. Do you notice something? So “few” goals? But he is so good? He is one of the best players in the world? How can this happen? …. He is a mover and shaker, he can read the game and the team, he can place himself and the ball perfectly in order to pass it on to the right player.

And what are you? Are you Lahm? Are you Lewandowski, are you Boateng? These guys know exactly their strengths and that’s where they are placed by the Manager. Yes, maybe you are the manager, then build your team!

And what has all this to do with your startup?
If you are the manager (to stick to the football metaphor) of your club, make exactly this your absolute priority. You are not the goalkeeper, the greenkeeper, the bus driver, the striker or the ball-boy. You are not Lahm, Boateng, Alaba or Ribery. You are the manager and you guarantee that exactly these highly talented people have the right position to fully develop. Realise their strengths and weaknesses before and while you are recruiting and when they work for you. Sometimes, you have to re-think your training or re-build the team and enhance it. But you have to be 100% aware that this is your constant task and focus yourself on it. The earlier you build the right team and position the players, the earlier you will grow.

You start as a regional league club and your target is the Champions League! The more you go up, the better and more attractive the market of “players” becomes for you. The really good ones want to play with the absolutely good ones. A Ribery won’t play in the district league and a regional league player won’t be able to compete in the Champions League. He is lacking the skills and many other qualities (he could work on them in some cases). Only the best players – even within all levels of the FC Bayern Munich – make it to the training of the first team. Even after they have made it, it’s still not guaranteed that they will ever be on the pitch. This might sound harsh but it’s YOUR startup and YOU have the responsibility for all players, for the whole team. And the team relies on the fact that you are aware of that.

But be careful! This doesn’t mean in any case that you downgrade the “weak” or that you kick him out! You have the responsibility to already consider who to take into the team when scouting and recruiting. Help him to develop, and find his real strengths and give him the secret power for it. If he weakens, look how to support him, sensitise your team. You can only make it to the top together. And another thing that might seem a bit contradictory to what I told you: of course, a regional league player can compete with a Champions League player but it’s often a matter of experience and training. Look at Thomas Müller, he is from Bayern Munich’s youth team, has been build up step by step and today, he is one of the best players in the world. Such people are priceless! Get working students, interns ….. Build them up together with your team and strengthen them and thereby also your company. If you work sustainably, it will pay off for you.

And don’t forget: It is YOUR startup, your baby! Make the most of it. Turn your startup into maybe the next Google? A lot is possible with the right team.

And as usual 🙂 These are my own personal experiences and views. Take what’s important to YOU and forget about the rest 🙂

My playground? Of course, alugha, THE portal for multilingual online videos. There, as CEO/CVO, I can turn my ideas into something real and constantly expand my team.

Published in Deutsch Englisch Gedanken / Minds


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